- The claim in the Winston case was one of acquaintance rape, his DNA was found on the accuser, and as soon as the DNA findings became public, his attorney admitted that Winston had sexual contact with the accuser. The lacrosse players’ attorneys, on the other hand, consistently denied any sexual contact—and no DNA links between them and false accuser Crystal Mangum ever were established.
- In Tallahassee, the local police seemed to bend over backwards to accommodate Winston; in Durham, the local police (ranging from the DPD leaders, who turned the case over to Mike Nifong, ranging down to ex-Sgt. Mark Gottlieb) seemed to bend over backwards to frame the lacrosse players.
- In Tallahassee, the college administration stood firmly behind Winston; in Durham, the reverse was true.
- In the Winston case, the media coverage was generally accurate and avoided a rush to judgment; in the lacrosse case, the reverse held true--especially on the pages of the New York Times.
- And, of course, there was no equivalent to the Group of 88 in Tallahassee.
So now, she’s back to doing what she does best—leveling a character assault against the lacrosse players, while whitewashing her own commentary from the period before the arrests. As part of a critique about the police response in the Winston case, Roberts reached back to Durham:
“In 2006, pitched against a political backdrop of elections, District Attorney Michael Nifong aggressively pursued rape charges against lacrosse players and falsified statements about evidence. The case against the players was dismissed and Nifong was disbarred. Nifong let himself be swept into a public tinder box of scenes from the party, including porn-style pictures taken on phones of an exotic dancer -- accuser Crystal Mangum -- and a disturbing email post depicting the skinning of strippers in an ‘American Psycho’ reference. This was in addition to irrefutable accounts of racial slurs and sodomy jokes at the party and past misdemeanors involving the team.
“As I noted in two opinion pieces for The New York Times, a no-crime, no-foul approach wasn't the only answer to the Duke scandal although it was the most popular one by the lacrosse team supporters. Folks can still inspect and debate a dehumanizing culture even though what happened at Duke didn't rise to a criminal case. I wrote in March 2007: ‘No one would want an innocent Duke player wronged or ruined by false charges -- and that may have occurred on Nifong's watch -- but the alleged crime and the culture are mutually exclusive. Some readers argue no one would have known about the lacrosse team's misogyny bash last year if not for the initial rape charges by the hired dancer. True, but that’s how we often discover what goes on behind the curtains: by a botched break-in, through a door left ajar.’”
It’s curious that Roberts writes that she penned “two opinion pieces for The New York Times.” Actually, she wrote three. Two of her columns, as she noted, focused on attacking the players’ character. Those columns came in April 2006—after, contrary to widespread expectations, it was revealed that there were no DNA matches between Mangum and the lacrosse players, strongly suggesting that her story, as described, could not have occurred—and in March 2007, after Nifong’s case had utterly collapsed.
But a character-only approach wasn’t Roberts’ initial take. I wonder, therefore, why Roberts didn’t ask “folks” to review the first column she wrote on the case, published in late March 2006. Indeed, I wonder why she didn’t even mention that column. That’s the item in which she—based solely on what Nifong and Mangum were saying—unequivocally asserted that “something happened March 13” that “threatens to belie [the players’] social standing as human beings.” She compared the players’ behavior to that “of drug dealers and gang members engaged in an anti-snitch campaign.” She praised the “heartening” protests of the potbangers—people, it’s worth remembering, who carried signs reading “Castrate” and “Measure for Measure.” She falsely stated that none of the players “have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account.” She falsely contended that a “court document” described the accuser as “the victim of a hate crime.” She noted that the accuser was “reportedly treated at a hospital for vaginal and anal injuries consistent with sexual assault and rape.”
This sort of writing didn’t exactly feature a recognition that “the alleged crime and the culture are mutually exclusive.” It did precisely the opposite, by analyzing the lacrosse players’ character (in what turned out to be a wildly misleading fashion) solely for the purpose of trying to explain why the players had not turned in their teammates who had committed the rape. Comparing college students to drug dealers or gang members doesn’t scream a respect for presumption of innocence. Does Roberts believe that no one who reads her work has access to Lexis-Nexis or Proquest? Why, then, would Roberts attempt to mislead about the thesis of her columns?
While Roberts has “folks” assuming the worst about the lacrosse players’ character (all of them, in Roberts’ world, appear to be judged solely on a portrayal of the party that some didn’t even attend and the overwhelming majority didn’t plan, with no discussion of whether the party was in any way typical of tasteless spring break activities by many college students, and a convenient use of the plural to describe events at the party), examine how Roberts describes the criminal case.
Most important, Roberts still can’t bring herself to label the lacrosse players as innocent. (“The case against the players was dismissed.”) So does she believe there was some evidence to substantiate the charges? If not, why the reluctance to identify the falsely accused players as AG Roy Cooper did, as actually innocent?
As for Nifong, he almost comes across as a good guy—“swept into a public tinder box” (he had no choice!) as he “aggressively pursued rape charges” (what’s wrong with that?). So what did Nifong do wrong? Roberts can only bring herself to devote four words: the disgraced DA “falsified statements about evidence.” Actually, he concealed evidence. And he ordered police to violate their own procedures to produce inculpatory evidence. And he violated myriad ethical procedures. And he lied, in court, to a judge. But including such offenses would have distracted from Roberts’ agenda.